Tom Bombadil is an ancient god beyond Gandalf's understanding.
January 7, 2014 6:22 AM Subscribe
I just finished re-reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the third or fourth time. I'll probably read it a couple more times before I die, at least one of which I'd like to share with a kid. What I'd like is "trivia" (broadly defined) that makes one think, or enriches one's appreciation of the mythos--from a purely textual perspective. Specific examples inside.
posted by Admiral Haddock to Media & Arts (69 answers total) 94 users marked this as a favorite
I'll never be a Tolkien scholar: I've only ever skimmed the appendices to the LOTR, and I have no intention (or much interest, even) in reading the Silmarillion or the Unfinished Tales. But I'd like some facts and observations (from whatever corner of the Tolkien canon) that enrich the experience of reading the LOTR itself.
For instance, Gandalf (and Saruman and Radagast) are not humans, they're Maiar--more or less "angels" walking Middle Earth. So is Sauron (and so are the balrogs), though Sauron is arguably the most powerful of the Maiar.
The Maiar were "bound" to different Valar, higher order "angels"--Gandalf to Nienna, the Valar of compassion--and that, in some ways, is critical to the unfolding of the tale (i.e., the famous "it was pity that stayed Bilbo's hand" dialogue with Frodo). Each of Saruman and Sauron were bound to Aule the Smith, the Valar of industry and craft. Hmm!
Then there's the whole business of Galadriel giving Gimli three of her golden hairs--whereas she rebuffed the same request by Fëanor, one of the most significant Elves in the mythos and creator of the Silmarils.
But I'm interested in even small little things--some of which are obvious, but that I personally glossed over in my childhood readings. The Lord of the Rings is Sauron, not Frodo (the Ring Bearer). Once the One Ring is destroyed, Bilbo, who gained his long life from his years with the Ring, fades rapidly, because the magic of the Ring is broken. Sam is himself a Ring Bearer and travels to the Gray Havens on the last ship from Middle Earth. Each of Frodo and Sauron has nine fingers. The Elves were more or less immune to the power of the One Ring (Galadriel, Elrond and Gandalf bear one each). The seven rings given to the Dwarves seem to have just roused them to greater greed, and ultimately four were destroyed by dragons (per Gandalf). Moria was the only place in Middle Earth where one could mine mithril (other than Numenor, which sunk into the sea), which explains, in part, why the Dwarves dug so deep. The Mirkwood spiders are descended from Shelob. Gandalf put Thorin up to the raid on Erebor so that Dwarves under the Mountain could be a bulwark against Sauron's forces assaulting Rivendell from the north. The eagles save the day when Frodo and the dwarves are stuck up the trees in The Hobbit, and again at the Battle of the Five Armies, and when Gandalf is trapped on Orthanc, and when he vanquishes the Balrog on Durin's Tower, and at the battle at Morannon, and then save Frodo and Sam from Orodruin. Busy eagles!
It leaves me a bit breathless.
What I am NOT interested in (at all) is Tolkien's experience at the Somme, Stephen Colbert loving Tolkien, Sam being based on Tolkien's dear friend Sam G. Amgee, or the Palantir representing the perils of long-distance telephones in British country post offices.
I'm looking exclusively for observations and facts derived from the text itself that would make a reader (first time or repeat) think, "wow! I did not know/notice that."
Please nerd out here (though I hope we can keep the "well, actually..." to a minimum--I'm just looking to smoke some Old Toby and have a good time).